It is hard to remember when the NBA occupied such a robust space in the American sports landscape.
The season that just wrapped up featured a little bit of everything you want to see from a league. You had the last throes of three great championship teams (Lakers, Celtics, Spurs), growth spurts from would-be successors to the throne (Bulls, Thunder), an unlikely champion with all kinds of feel-good stories, and the greatest sports villains since the 1980 Winter Olympics.
The Knicks don't fit into any of those categories, although it was a damn fine year in these parts as well. You can have all the uncertainty you want about where the team is going from here, but making the playoffs with two big star players is a far better starting point than we've seen in many, many moons.
You could make an argument that right now the NBA has the biggest collection of bold-faced names of any sport in the country. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Dirk Nowitzki and their elite brethren have breathed new life into the sport over the last couple of years and there's plenty of room to grow.
So naturally, the NBA is preparing to put a halt on everything in order to spend the summer squabbling about gross revenues, hard salary caps and everything else that makes the eyes glaze over whenever they come up for discussion outside of boardrooms. Hopefully all of this will be resolved quickly without much bloodletting, but our experiences with the still-lingering football lockout makes us fairly pessimistic about the immediate future.
Still, we'll need something to talk about while David Stern looks to stamp one last bit of legacy onto the sport he's overseen for the last three decades. Here's a few Knick-centric talking points that should last us a while.
Mike D'Antoni's Future. Teams can conduct internal business during the lockout, which means that the search for Donnie Walsh's permanent replacement can continue unabated. Whoever comes in is unlikely to have any great attachment to D'Antoni, so you can bet that their hiring will lead to a spate of discussions about what D'Antoni needs to do to coach more tan one more year in New York.
Defense! Defense! Defense! This goes hand in hand with D'Antoni's future as getting better in their own end is clearly the biggest need of the Knicks offseason. There's been much speculation about the Knicks hiring a defensive coordinator who, depending on the situation, could become the head coach in waiting while D'Antoni coaches out the string.
Clearly changing the scheme on defense to one that actually exists beyond hoping the opposition misses wide open shots is a must, but it is difficult to imagine too much changing while D'Antoni is in charge.
Searching for a Big Man. This ball got rolling in the Post Monday with a mention of epic bust Kwame Brown who is coming off a fairly decent season with Charlotte. These discussions should all be taken with the outsized grain of salt going forward, but they should also always include old friend Kurt Thomas whose scowl alone would improve the Knicks defense by leaps and bounds if he returned to the Garden.
Jorts! Josh Harrellson's trip from Kentucky benchwarmer to NBA second-round pick is a good read, mostly because it includes ill-advised Twitter usage and the nickname bestowed on him during a recruiting visit to Lexington. Harrellson wore jean shorts on that visit and quickly found himself dubbed Jorts by the student body.
It's hard to say if simply saying "Jorts" and giggling is enough to tide everyone over until basketball returns. We're about to find out.